The first Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer disappeared from the market so soon after its launch that you might not have noticed it was there at all. Except in the case of a limited-edition model, this is not an experience any manufacturer would choose to repeat, so the fact that Vauxhall has introduced a new Country Tourer suggests some confidence that this one will be more successful.
The old and the new are very different, because Insignias are no longer what they once were. A new model arrived earlier this year, based on a platform we haven’t seen before and probably won’t see again in Europe. Taken as a whole, the current Insignia is an impressive car, and a fine basis for Vauxhall’s second semi-off-road estate.
For Country Tourer purposes, Vauxhall has increased the ride height by a modest 20mm. All versions have the same amount of equipment (which is to say quite a lot) as standard, and for the moment there’s only one engine, namely a 168bhp two-litre turbo diesel.
The only way to distinguish one Country Tourer from another is to check the drivetrain. You can have a six-speed manual gearbox or an eight-speed automatic, and you can have front- or wheel-drive, though there is no such thing as an automatic 4×4.
Because of their extra ride height, moderate as it is, all Country Tourers can potentially go slightly further into the wilderness than other Insignias. However, if you’re keen on borrowing deep into the countryside the 4×4 is obviously the one to go for, so that’s the one we’ve picked for this test.
Even the 4×4 isn’t going to challenge a serious SUV on the rough stuff, of course, but it’s reasonably capable. On the UK media launch, Vauxhall gave journalists the chance to try the car on an off-road course which, consisting mostly of a drive across a field and along a pleasantly smooth woodland track, wouldn’t have given an MX-5 too much trouble.
But it also included a large hole with steep approach and departure routes. Again, nothing that would confuse an SUV (though it might give a novice driver pause for thought), but certainly not the sort of thing you’d want to tackle in a conventional estate car.
The Country Tourer got through it easily. As off-road ability goes, this is not exactly startling, yet if your lifestyle involves the need to drive in and out of large holes in a comfortable, roomy and well-equipped estate car there’s no reason why you shouldn’t choose this one.
On tarmac, the Country Tourer is hampered slightly by a centre of gravity higher than that of other Insignias, but not by much. The handling is less precise, but you’re not going to be wallowing from one side of the road to the other.
Compared with similar offerings from the premium German brands, the Country Tourer is remarkably inexpensive. Without options, no version costs as much as £28,000. No Volkswagen Passat Alltrack has a list price below £31,000, while the Audi A4 allroad is in a different league altogether.
In terms of purchase cost, the Skoda Octavia Scout – smaller, but with more luggage space, and available only as a 4×4 – is a much closer rival.
Despite all that, the Country Tourer may be more expensive to run. Combined fuel economy of 47.1mpg (which will be very difficult to match in the real world) and official CO2 emissions of 172g/km would have been startling ten years ago but are nothing to write home about now.
Overall, this is a pleasant and capable car with much to be said in its favour, but as with all its rivals I’d have to say that if you never need to stray from the tarmac you might as well go for a more conventional estate instead.
Engine size 1956cc
Top speed 141mph
0-62mph 8.4 seconds
Fuel economy 47.1mpg combined
CO2 emissions 172g/km
Towing capacity 1950kg (braked)
Euro NCAP (2017) Overall 5 stars Adult occupant 93% Child occupant 85% Pedestrian 78% Safety assist 69%
Information correct at publication date